When You Do Not Use Your Intellect

Dr. Janki Santoke, Speaking tree, April 27th 2016

When a person does not use his intellect, his whole life revolves around acquisition and enjoyment. Sukha prapti and dukh nivrutti as vedanta calls it. Such a person is unable to conceive anything else.

There is nothing wrong with acquisition and enjoyment per se. What would be our life if we never acquired anything or enjoyed anything! The world has so many wonderful things. It would be indeed a sad soul who could not enjoy what this world has to offer. Acquiring things too is necessary. How would we live productively in this world had we not got the means for survival? We need today the computer and the cell phone just like early man needed fire. All our discoveries have made our lives so much more convenient. And we would be indeed foolish not to benefit from modern discoveries.

Thus acquisition and enjoyment are a part of life. The problem is: we often behave as if it was the whole of life!
A simple illustration can show up the difference. A little sweet after a meal is enjoyable. It is desirable. But if we substitute the meal with the sweet what would happen? We would get fed up with it. We would gain no nutrition. Acquiring more sweets would not only be no longer enjoyable, but also positively distasteful; even harmful. No wonder people say they are tired of their lives – work, parties, clothes, holiday homes…. The attempt to acquire and enjoy more is not giving them the anticipated happiness.

Not only that, this attitude is ruining their character and life. Imagine eating only sweets. So too mere acquisition and enjoyment will cause problems! It is no doubt important what one achieves. But it is also important what one becomes while achieving it. An acquisition is not permanent while one’s character is. Besides what we possess doesn’t help us sleep at night. Character does!
Character is having an intellect. Intellect is the power of discrimination. Every human has it in varying degrees. And we can all develop it further. Discrimination tells us good from bad, right from wrong, appropriate from inappropriate. The intellect governs the mind.

The mind in us is the child. It demands constantly. And the more it gets the more it wants. It is not capable of discrimination, of understanding effects and consequences. It wants only instant gratification. It is the intellect’s role to discriminate, to consider effects, to choose actions sensibly. The mind tends to get unidimensional. It wants something and keeps wanting it, ignoring all else. And that’s where all our problems start. We forget every other thing in the pursuit of acquisition and enjoyment. But there is a lot more to life. And in that ‘more’ our happiness truly lies. If we expand our vision even a bit we will see so many more things. Those things will give us that elusive happiness that acquisition and enjoyment didn’t bring.
Human life is designed for higher vision. To expand our awareness to include other people beyond our family; to include other creatures; to include higher ideals and noble thoughts; to seek the welfare of the world. Vasudaiva kutumbakam. The world is my family.

Every animal lives for acquisition and enjoyment. Humans too have it. But humans are heir to so much more. To so much more satisfaction, to so much more bliss. Why have we denied ourselves our birthright?